It's Bryz-ness As Usual For the Flyers and Their Netminder
One of the top stories last season was netminder Ilya Bryzgalov.
Unfortunately for the Russian goalie, a majority of the news wasn't very positive. From being lost in the woods to bringing his thermos to the Winter Classic, Bryzgalov instantly became a sought-after quote after the game, even if his play wasn't a factor.
The pressure of playing in a media market such as Philadelphia, especially after how laid back the Phoenix media was, affected Bryzgalov's play and demeanor in a negative way. Last season, Bryzgalov had lapses in confidence and consistency, managing to finish with a respectable 33-16-7 record, 2.48 GAA and .909 save percentage.
There were times where the Flyers front office wanted to quiet Bryzgalov, and at one point barred all media from talking to him on days he wasn't playing.
This season, however, a different Bryzgalov has been playing in net. He has played more confidently and more focused, and the result could be due to his new found quietness.
Bryzgalov was excellent in Saturday's 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, stopping 39 shots to improve his record to 3-5-0 and maintain a healthy 2.40 GAA and .920 save percentage.
His 39 saves were the most he made as a Flyer. It was also his most since stopping 45 on March 29, 2011 while with Phoenix. His previous high with the Flyers was 38 last season.
Bryzgalov's best performance of the game came in the final two periods where he stopped 28.
"The second period was good for Bryz but he was as good in the third. He was a really strong player for us," said head coach Peter Laviolette after the game.
Bryzgalov's teammates have also been aware of his stellar play in eight games this season.
"He has been playing very good this year," added captain Claude Giroux. "He’s in the zone and playing very well."
After the game, a humbler Bryzgalov was very short in his answers, keeping the focus on the fact he's just doing his job which is to help the Flyers stay in games and come out with victories.
"That’s my job, to give our team a chance to win the game," Bryzgalov said flatly in one sentence after the game.
When pressed on how loose the team played in front of him, especially in the third period, Bryzgalov refused to give an opinion on the matter.
"It’s not my job to make the statement, we win that’s most important. We get these two points."
Keeping the focus off himself and turning off his candid button has allowed Bryzgalov to worry less about talking to the media and focus more on having a much better sophomore season with the team. Speculation mounted that the Flyers would consider opting out of Bryzgalov's lengthy nine-year, $51 million contract at the end of the season as a result of the new CBA.
His play has allowed him to start in eight of the Flyers first nine games. Bryzgalov has stressed that the more he plays, the better, and it has shown in the fact he's made at least 65 starts in three of the last five seasons.
That fact doesn't come to much of a surprise, especially to a veteran like Mike Knuble.
"It was good. I think as players you feel like he had to do too much work, he did a lot of work tonight and we need to be better at making it a little bit easier on him," the 40-year-old right winger said after Saturday's game.
Bryzgalov will continue to do work for the Flyers, who play at home on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week. It wouldn't come to a surprise if Bryzgalov starts in all three games either.
Like Bryzgalov said, his only focus is to get two points each night.
"If you want to fight for the playoff spots we need to get some points," Bryzgalov said. "We need to win some games, that’s pretty obvious."
Short and sweet, exactly how Bryzgalov and the Flyers like it.